'They need to separate the infected from the healthy,' 12 COVID-19 cases linked to UNB residence

A tenant of the University of New Brunswick apartment building says he has outstanding questions for public health, and remains concerned about his safety and the safety of his neighbours.

Martin Kutnowski is a St. Thomas University fine arts professor who lives alone in one of Magee House's 101 units. The residence is at the centre of an outbreak in Fredericton, where 12 cases of COVID-19 have been linked.

The 53-year-old says he's tested negative twice so far, but after almost a week of isolating, he wonders if more could be done for the safety of the tenants.

"My question is, if there were one or two or three or four cases, why not evacuate those?" he asked in an interview with CTV Atlantic. "What about within this community of 170 people? How will the health system be burdened if all 170 end up getting infected because of being confined in the same space?"

The residents of the building are not allowed to leave their units. Kutnowski says groceries are taken to the hallway by UNB personnel, who knock on the door, move away, and residents then retrieve the food. There are no balconies, and he says many are concerned about the ventilation system.

"I'm sleeping and I don't know, I don't know if I'm breathing the virus in my own apartment. I don't know because it may be coming through the ventilation … I don't really know. So what do we do about that risk? Is it a risk that I should brush off?"

A UNB spokesperson said in an email that a public healthengineer "has been working with the vendor of the ventilation system to assess the risk of contamination from recirculated air. They have determined the risk is minimal."

Kutnowski says he sent along a request to public health on Sunday, a day after the isolation requirements were put in place, asking if he could isolate at a place he secured outside the city, away from Magee House. He says he hasn't received a response.

Fredericton South MLA David Coon says he understands the concerns, and wonders if something could be done to allow tenants a little bit of fresh air.

"There's no question they have to lock down the building, as they did on Saturday, that's for sure," he said. "But in terms of balance, I think that, absolutely, people should have the opportunity to go outdoors this weekend and get some fresh air."

He says public health has assured that the isolation requirements won't be longer than 14 days.

A case in the Fredericton region has been confirmed as the so-called India variant, and 11 others are presumed. There are 22 active cases in Zone 3, which includes the city.